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Posted by attorney Faye Cohen

I read a daily paper for lawyers, which discusses legal developments in this area. This paper is always interesting, and often highly entertaining, because some lawyers and judges tend to get themselves in all sorts of trouble, and many of the cases featured involve humorous fact situations featuring lawyers, judges and clients, and sometimes all three.

Generally, when lawyers pursue lawyers in litigation, watch out! Recently there have been several cases reported which made me feel that I was living in the time of Roman gladiators, and lawyers were fighting battles to the death with each other. The viciousness was apparent, and some of these lawyers and law firms involved were fighting tooth and nail with their counterparts who they have had friendly relationships with in the past, and probably even worked on cases together. I was raised in Minnesota, and although I feel that the famous Midwest friendliness is often contrived, at least the knives are aimed at one’s back rather than one’s heart. On the East Coast I feel that knives are often aimed for the jugular, and the hatred is not contrived, it is real.

I actually became upset reading about some of the accusations lawyers were throwing at each other. Lawyers are required to adhere to a code of ethics and professionalism and their licenses are monitored. It is scary to realize that one’s professional reputation is often a stone’s throw away from being besmirched by accusations which one must defend, especially if they are exaggerated or untrue. I have written before about the adversarial system, in which stress is placed on lawyers by many organizations and people. We really operate in a war zone these days, albeit without actual weapons.

Although I don’t know about the merits of the following matters, nor do I have an opinion as to which side appears to have the better argument, I am providing them by way of example about the kinds of matters currently being litigated:

A former justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been asked to give her deposition in a case initiating from the new family law courthouse which is being built in Philadelphia. The issue is whether an advisor on this project, who also received a fee from the project’s builder, did so inappropriately. The former judge has some information considered relevant. She is also being represented by a former judge of a lower level court. After numerous delays, and the outright refusal of the judge to attend a deposition, she was ordered to do so by another judge. The interesting lesson here is that everyone is subject to the legal process, and the maneuverings involved by a judge who worked to enforce that process, not to participate in the process, appears disrespectful of the system.

Another case involves a lawyer who left a firm, but before and after he did, he allegedly installed some software permitting him to take data with him. The new firm he joined vigorously represented him until they apparently learned of some improprieties, or perhaps that he wasn’t truthful with them about this situation, so they apparently asked them to leave. The judge in that case raised the issue that since the new firm represented the lawyer who joined them, and he has now left, whether they can be required to provide information about that lawyer although he was their “client" and whether they can refuse to give it based on attorney –client privilege.

The last case involves a lawyer who got a million dollar referral fee from another law firm to whom he had referred a case. He thought he was entitled to more, and after some litigation, the lawyer settled for an additional million dollars. Yet the referring lawyer, who was quite elderly and ill, continued on and on with litigation, which has now lasted close to ten years, and the most recent case required that he reimburse the other lawyer for time and fees spent responding to this ongoing litigation. The interesting part of that case was that litigation can go on for many years, and people have to stay involved in it, whether it is reasonable or not.

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